Thursday 27 April 2017

Wilderness Reclaims Man's Infrastructure on the Louth Canal.

The idea of walking the length of the 12 mile length of the Louth Canal from the Canal head in Louth to the sea at Tetney was inspiered by two things.  Firstly it was a walk that I had planned to do for some while and secondly my interest was piqued when I visited the Neverends exhibition at The Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby.  Part of this exhibition was a collaboration by poet Harriet Tarlo and artist Judith Tucker on the Louth Canal.  With their poems and drawings they expressed their interest in the relationship between the original River Ludd and the canal itself as its industrial past becomes absorbed into semi-wilderness, creating niches for local flora and fauna in its culverts, bridges and locks.  I felt that this work would combine  my interests in wilderness and walking.  With this in mind Heather and I set out at 10.30 last Monday from Louth's Canal Head to walk as far as Austen Fen where we had left a car.

The weather looked promising as we set off with a promise of dry conditions at least until we had finished. How wrong we were as the rain started a couple of miles into the walk.  How silly of me to decide it was dry enough not to bother with boots; I finished up with sodden feet.  The canal opened in 1770 and had 8 locks along its length of which 6 remain.  Humber Keels would ply the navigation with regular sailings to London, Hull and many other coastal ports.  The main exports were wool and corn, whilst timber and coal were imported.  Most of the locks were rare barrel locks with sides consisting of four elliptical bays, a design only ever used on this canal in Britain.  The last cargo was landed in Louth in 1924 and it rapidly fell into disuse, although the Louth Navigation Trust have plans for its restoration.

On this part of the walk the locks came thick and fast and their condition ranged from that at Alvingham which one could imagine being restored to Salter Fen Lock which is in a very poor state.  I was fascinated by the second one that we came to: Ticklepenny Lock, named after a family of smallholders and lock keepers who lived nearby.  Even those locks that are in a better state of repair are rapidly being colonised by plants and even trees and shrubs growing from the cracks in the masonry work.  Lichens and liverwort growth is rich.  Warehouses along the canal are attractive but in varying states of repair and one as the canal leaves Louth is well on the way to being rewilded.

I was interested to see grey wagtails along the canal with one superb male in the canal head itself and we had a quick flash of the iridescent blue of a kingfisher at Alvingham.

To view large, please click on an image.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

The Yorkshire Wolds Way, Stage 3. Londesborough to Fridaythorpe.

Although it was to be a fairly cool day today, we were lucky with the weather, enjoying a fair amount of sun and no rain.  We set off from our finish point of stage 2, Londesborough, just after 10.30 a.m. making good time to Nunburnholme with sweeping views over the Vale of York.  We could see York Minster and Drax power station with the hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance.  The church at Nunburnholme is attractive and of note for the fact that from 1854 to 1893 the rector was the eminent Victorian Ornithologist Francis Orpen Morris.  There is also a fine Anglo-Saxon cross in the church, but as it was locked we could only glimpse it through the west window.  Now is the time of year when oil-seed rape is at its height and wherever you walk the air is heavy with its cloying scent.  It was pleasant, then, to walk steeply up through Bratt Wood where we could smell, as well as see, carpets of ramsons or wild garlic and bluebells just coming into flower.  The leaves of wild garlic make an excellent soup to which I can testify as, a couple of years ago, we sampled some when cycling the C2C coast to coast ride.  Other flowers that we noted were dogs mercury, primrose, speedwell, cowslip and borage. Chiffchaffs were very vocal in the wood here too.

We enjoyed lunch sitting in the sun high above the market town of Pocklington and shortly after came to a section of The Way that took us along the edge of the deep valley of Millington Dale, one of the most unspoilt dales in the Yorkshire Dales.  Opposite was Millington Wood and the very steep sided Millington Pasture, both very rich in wildlife.  The gorse in Millington Pasture was a picture and it made the air heady with the scent of coconut.  We saw red kites here and they were a presence all along our walk today.  The close views we had of these magnificent raptors was, perhaps, the highlight of the day's walking.  At the head of the dale Brian and I were reminded of the time when cycling The Way of the Roses (another coast to coast ride)  he stopped suddenly in front of me and I, not really paying attention, rode straight into him and over his back wheel, necessitating a stop in Driffield at the bike shop for repairs.

The final stretch of today's stage took us from Huggate steeply down into Horse Dale and then along the classic chalk valley of Holm Dale.  A short track from the dale head led us into the village of Fridaythorpe where we had left the car.

A particularly fine day's walking.